Prehistoric Adventures in WiltshireJanuary 1, 2018
Trail Website – next stepsJanuary 11, 2018
The Green Lane Association recently announced the dedication of a seven mile long permissive byway on Salisbury Plain.
We caught up with GLASS rep and magazine editor Dale Wyatt to find out more about the work that went into earning the new route, the problems facing responsible 4x4 drivers and the opportunities that exist to help secure a future for our public rights.
Dale, on a trail (in Trail!).
Hi Dale, we see that GLASS exists to conserve our network of green roads in much the same way as the TRF.
At what point did you become involved with the organisation and what successes have you had?
I was involved from the very beginning. I saw that there was a national group for motorcycle users, but not one for 4x4s. I met up with some guys in Wales and they had set up a group called ‘Green Laners of Wales’ in the early 90s. I joined them and before long we started talking about going national with it and eventually decided a new name was required. GLASS
was born in 1995.
Initially it was all about getting information out to people and then we started doing clearance days twice a year. They become known as ‘Green Lane Days’. You have to remember it was before the days of the internet, so knowledge was difficult to come by. 1:25k maps came in tiny sheet sizes and UCRs (ORPAs) weren’t even marked on OS maps back then.
GLASS & TRF volunteers helping clear an overgrown byway for the benefit of everyone.
I think the main success in the early days of GLASS was achieving a truly national association with a series of regional reps all working together – a knowledge base, in quite a short period of time. Although dated in appearance, the creation of TrailWise
was an amazing achievement. I was heavily involved in the running of GLASS in the early years, but when I moved to Wiltshire in 1998 I concentrated more on local matters.
From a personal green laning perspective, I met up with various people (a number of them TRF guys) to mark up maps and discuss routes. As my knowledge grew, so did my confidence and I started visiting rights of way departments to view the Definitive Map
. We had so many more routes at that time and a much more logical network.
I mainly laned in the Home Counties, the South of England, and mid to south Wales. I started exploring green roads in 1988 but I remember looking at the white roads on my dad’s maps whilst a child and being very intrigued! I cycled many of them as a teenager long before the advent of mountain bikes.
We heard that you’ve been busy on Salisbury Plain. What exactly have you been doing up there for the last seven years?
Yes I have. I forget exactly how the initial meeting came about, but it was via TreadLightly
, rather than GLASS (TreadLightly was originally set up as a joint GLASS/TRF initiative).
TreadLightly had been working well in Powys, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire on various way marking projects, educational days with the police etc. so we decided to try something similar in England.
An opportunity came up via the MOD who wanted rights of way on SPTA
signed so that the public knew where they were supposed to be and the Army knew where people we allowed to be, as military training must be mindful of public access. Signage was almost non-existent on the Plain at the time.
Hi-vis vs lo-vis. Not all troop positions are this conspicuous!
A meeting took place at Westdown Camp
near Tilshead in 2010 in which we were briefed about what the MOD wanted to achieve and we discussed how we could help with volunteers and transport. Following that meeting I was invited to the Wiltshire CAF
(Country Access Forum) by Lt Col Nigel Linge to co-present the proposed project, dubbed Project Ubique
The project sought:
- Continuity of routes e.g. a bridleway links to a bridleway
- A Better and Safer Rights of Way Network
With Wiltshire Council
onside, the project commenced on 15th June 2011. We initially used a Boxer with an auger attachment to drill the holes for the posts, but this proved too slow so we sourced a tractor with auger, meaning we could move much faster each day. Most volunteers came from GLASS and other 4x4 users, but we also had help from Wiltshire TRF
, Wiltshire Bridleways Association
and the British Horse Society
As the months rolled by, we started looking at linking up the network that had been broken up by the NERC Act
. As land owner, the MOD dedicated a number of byways to improve connectivity and we engaged in a bit of ‘horse trading’ to further our access rights, as the MOD wanted to close a number of dead end byways that ran into the impact area of the Westdown Artillery Range
There were a couple of strange experiences where we were allowed into the range and could hear shells whistling overhead!
The PTO-driven auger in action.
After that we started to add and sign a number of Permissive Byways
, at first on MOD stone tracks but towards the end of the project also a few key links that helped to make better sense of the network, which finished with a 7 mile Permissive Byway
around the north of the Westdown
Ranges on the 11th November 2017.
We didn’t just sign byways though – we also signed bridleways and footpaths, helping the BHS create a circular route around the Imber Ranges (the Imber Range Perimeter Path
) and WBA
sign a number of bridleways that had become totally lost on the ground. I guess I’ve driven every single right of way on the Plain - with permission, of course!
This bridleway had become overgrown through a lack of use.
This was something that I had been trying to achieve for a few years and without the help of a few key colleagues it would never had happened. It goes to show that there are rewards to be had if you are willing to put a bit of effort in to your hobby.
So far we have achieved:
- 1,170 signs and way marks erected, repaired or replaced
- 37 Diversions
- 41 Signed Permissive Byways
- 17 Signed Permissive Bridleways
- 1,300 Volunteer Hours
A lot of signs requires a lot of work!
That’s a lot of work! Have other land owners or local authorities requested your help to sign their rights of way?
It sure was! Previous to working with the MOD we had a very successful project waymarking multi-user routes within Carmarthenshire’s Brechfa Forest
, where we also secured a Permissive Byway to assist a landowner who was suffering cross field damage. A simple diversion was the perfect solution.
In Powys we waymarked a number of routes around Rhayader
with signs that clearly showed public access rights and undertook a similar project in Ceredigion as well. Elsewhere we’ve had more low-key signage projects in a number of counties including Northumberland, Yorkshire as well as in Bridgend and parts of North Wales.
Dale used his Bowler to help sign the Imber Range Perimeter Bridleway.
Didn’t you win an award?
I did! I was runner-up in the Individual Achievement Award category at the 2015 MOD Sanctuary Awards
and had to go to MOD HQ in Whitehall - proper 007 stuff! It was a complete surprise as I didn’t know my name had been put forward!
Some people confuse responsible green laning by 4x4 with ‘mud-plugging’ abuse. What work have you done to help improve driver conduct and public perception?
This is our biggest problem. As you know, our limited green road resource was effectively halved in 2006 with the NERC Act and since then Facebook and YouTube have been used to publish images and videos that do us no favours at all. These people have little thought for other users or how fragile the right to drive unsurfaced roads actually is. However, these people are a minority – most green laners are responsible people who understand the issues involved.
Wiltshire Council backed the project, providing tools and equipment.
During the winter months we encourage our members to drive on sustainable routes, leaving softer, more vulnerable routes for dryer months. We recommend groups of no more than four vehicles, though up to six is acceptable in some areas. Personally, I prefer to go out in groups of only two or three.
Like the TRF, we have worked with LARA
for many years and will use Voluntary Restraint
(VR) in areas where it is likely to prove effective. Our Hertfordshire rep has pioneered the use of permits, which are only given out to members of a recognised group with a code of conduct. This has proved to be effective so we may try to introduce it to other areas.
Dale (centre) and other GLASS volunteers helping Wiltshire Council.
A number of our reps around the country host education days in conjunction with the police, including myself with Wiltshire Police
on Salisbury Plain. We’ve also provided educational posters for local authorities and National Parks. The way forward is to educate mud pluggers to keep off public vehicular rights of way and instead use appropriate private land, such as pay and play sites.
The letters ‘v’ and ‘j’ make an effective substitute for the letter ‘y’ when used together…
Showing the public what driving and riding green roads is all about helps get the message across that we are responsible users. I’ve been impressed with the more open and approachable TRF model and hope to be able to do more to promote GLASS in this manner.
It is my opinion that our rights are common, and that we need to work together to safeguard our heritage of green roads.
Thanks Dale – see you on the trail!